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How to Train an Untrainable Dog

| Updated September 26, 2017

Every dog owner knows the feeling that his dog just might not be able to learn the command he's trying to teach. But no dog is untrainable. If you are struggling to train your dog, look for reasons why he might be struggling. Is he scared? Is he distracted? Does he actually know how to perform the command you are requesting? Once you determine what is hampering your dog, training progression will be much easier.

Exercise Your Dog

Many dogs can't focus because they have too much excess energy. Make sure your dog is getting plenty of exercise. For a young dog, two 45-minute exercise sessions that involve at least some full-speed running may be required each day. In addition, play short games with your dog throughout the day to burn off extra energy.

Assess Body Language

Read your dog's body language. If your dog has his tail tucked, ears back or body low, he is showing signs of fear. Maybe your training methods are too stressful. Maybe something in the environment is frightening your dog. If this is the case, ease your dog into training. Try a few simple commands and reward profusely with tasty, high-value treats. Help your dog get excited about training.

Be Consistent

Many dogs don't learn because their owners aren't consistent in what they are trying to teach them. Dogs don't understand English, so the only way to explain what you want them to do is to respond to each behavior the same way each time. For example, if your dog jumps up on you, turn your back every time. Don't yell sometimes, turn your back sometimes and pet her sometimes. If your dog understands she will never get attention when she jumps, she will stop.

Observe Your Actions

Often when a behavior continues, it is because the owner is inadvertently rewarding it. In the jumping example, if you respond by pushing your dog or yelling at him, that is still attention. If all your dog wants is attention, he's getting exactly what he wants. Change your behavior -- in this case by ignoring all jumping -- and then reward behavior you want, like polite sitting.

Teach Alternative Behaviors

If your dog is having trouble with training, ask for the help of a trainer or take a training class. Learn to teach your dog some basic commands that you can teach in place of undesirable behaviors. For example, if your dog jumps, teaching her to sit is a great way to stop a behavior you don't like by rewarding one that you do. Dogs love to please. Teach them what to do instead.

Utilize Time Outs

If your dog isn't listening, put him in time out until he calms down. Use a leash to prevent him from getting into trouble, even in the house. Tie the leash to your belt if you have to. These are simple tools that can restrict your dog's freedom and thus your ability to control him until he listens better.

Build Training Slowly

Many owners make the mistake of training their dogs in their living room and then expecting the dog to perform the same way at the park. You need to build to more complex training, so when your dog is doing well in the living room, move to the backyard, then front yard, then a quiet street before trying to hit the noisy park. Expect your dog to struggle a little in each new environment and lower your expectations.